What Makes Managers Happy at Work?

Written by Lord Mark Price Friday 08 February 2019
Former minister of trade lord mark price shares new data on happiness at work
People sitting together, talking and smiling

I spent more than thirty years in management roles with the John Lewis Partnership. The last ten of which were spent running Waitrose. The guiding principle to the way I managed was inspired by the company’s constitution. It said the supreme purpose of the Partnership is the happiness of its employees. The Partnership’s founder correctly understood that if you have a satisfied and engaged workforce, they give more, your customers then get more, and as a result you’ll have a better business over the long term.

I spent my Partnership career working out exactly what made people happy at work. When I retired from Waitrose a number of years ago I began to build the workplace happiness survey at Engaging Works so that individuals and companies could measure, compare and improve how happy they were.

The survey measures six key areas that contribute to how positive you feel at work. These are reward and recognition; information; empowerment; wellbeing; sense of pride; and job satisfaction. The latter is driven by two attributes – your career development and the relationship you have with your line manager.

So, what does the survey tell us?

How Happy Are Uk Managers?

The starting point for any successful organisation is to have a happy management team. They then need to prioritise the happiness of the people they manage.

Our latest State of the Nation report surveyed more than 3,600 UK managers. It showed they score above average when it comes to workplace happiness (6.3 out of 10). This score was higher than in 2017.

On average, managers thought that they had a good relationship with their line managers. They also said they felt empowered in their job and that they had enough information to be able to do their job well.

Being trusted to make decisions in the workplace was important too, as was being treated with respect. Managers also scored highly when asked if they were proud to work for their organisation; they scored significantly higher than non-managers. These are all clearly factors that affect workplace satisfaction.

When it comes to what makes managers unhappy, managers are dissatisfied with how they are being rewarded. They score low on wellbeing too.

How Can We Make Managers Happier?

The importance of the mental and physical health of employees is something that businesses are waking up to. Many businesses now employ a chief happiness officer who puts wellbeing at the heart of an organisation.

The survey results also highlighted that we should be offering more professional development opportunities.

If we invest in managers’ professional development, this means investing in the business and the bottom line. The Government should have mandatory requirements for businesses to up-skill managers and retrain them for roles.

But is there more that can be done to ensure that happiness in the workplace is a priority, especially for managers? As a former minister for trade and investment I am keen for the Government to create a ‘happiness strategy’ to generate a more engaged workforce with a focus on wellbeing. If we are to become globally competitive in a post-Brexit free market we must look to improve our productivity by building a happy working culture.

Employee Share-option Schemes

I’d like to see the Government encourage organisations to share the value created in a business with employees through bonuses and share option schemes. While working for the John Lewis Partnership I saw just how motivating this way of business was for employees – with both financial and emotional rewards.

Management happiness would also improve if it were obligatory for businesses to make more information available about company performance. To give them the same access to information as shareholders would create an open and transparent culture ensuring widespread understanding of the business’s objectives.

Employees could also be empowered by placing managers and non-managers on boards or shadow advisory boards. Once they know what needs to be done, they’ll make intelligent suggestions and be more committed to the best way forward.

But as I have learnt in my time as management, the first step any business must take is to monitor the happiness of managers and non-managers. Only then can a business improve as a whole, leading to a happier bottom line.

Image: Shutterstock


Lord Mark Price

Lord Mark Price

Lord Mark Price (@lordmarkprice) is founder of Engaging Works and former MD of Waitrose and Minister of State for Trade